Last week, I lost my nan.
I’ve been pretty useless all weekend. I’m either randomly crying, or shoving my face full of food. I’ve been a delight to spend time with.
I’ve been trying to work out why I couldn’t stop crying – my nan had been diagnosed with terminal uterine cancer, and she was in a lot of pain.
Not only was she one of the most goddamn stubborn women I know, she was from a generation that somehow managed to deal with pain without dealing with pain.
Example – *leg hanging off* I’m in so much pain, but don’t you dare make a fuss. Just give me a paracetamol. Now stop breathing near me because I’m in so much pain.
Which means that, the whole way through, she refused to believe in anything stronger than paracetamol. It wasn’t the cancer causing the pain you see. It was anything and everything but. I’ve been told that there was actually a nurse en route with a syringe full of something powerful when she passed. I’m not saying that she chose to go when she did to avoid this, but if I said it wouldn’t surprise me, maybe that tells you the type of character she was.
She was, quite simply, the best. Growing up, I lived around the corner from her. She was the lap that made everything okay. She baked – she taught us all how to bake, in fact. She had the dressing up box. The jar of sweets. The Christmas dinners. The New Year gatherings. The birthday parties. She made us watch snooker. And Star Trek. Or Wars. I can never tell the difference. I was probably there every single day for about 11 years.
Until I hit secondary school age, and sadly became too cool to go and hang out at my grandparents.
It’s easy to look back on every shoulda woulda coulda but that doesn’t really help anything. Suffice to say that right now I feel super shit and wish with all of my heart that I shoulda coulda woulda done a million things differently.
So. Anyway. I couldn’t stop crying. And, really, I shouldn’t be. She went exactly how she chose to. She sent my mum off to visit my brother in Australia reassuring her that she would be fine. She even sent my aunt out for a cup of tea, after being beautifully propped up on pillows, like the glamourpuss she was. She hated fuss and people seeing her like this. This was a lady who wouldn’t accept anything less than being as fabulous as she could be at all times. So, she quietly slipped away whilst everyone else had their back turned. Except my grandpop. He was there at the end.
And thinking about it, I know that this is why I can’t stop crying.
My grandparents had one of those relationships that I don’t think we will ever see again in any future generations. They started ‘courting’ when they were young teenagers, they had known each other for even longer. And they were together forever more.
They rode out so many years of all of the kinds of frustrations, selfishness, heartache, and arguments that would tear a marriage apart in seconds in this day and age. They must have lived by the principals of forgiving and not walking away, because they never did. It would never have crossed their minds to leave each other because they had just ‘grown apart’. That just didn’t happen.
Because of that, they also got to experience a deeper love and friendship than many people could ever hope to come close to. To me, they were one. It was inconceivable that they could ever exist without the other by their side. The thought that either of them could ever be with anyone else was inexplicable. It’s not just mine – grandparents all over the world seem to project a love that we all aspire to, yet it’s all in our power to emulate. We just don’t seem to try as hard as they did.
So, I cry for that love. And my grandpop. I can’t even begin to imagine how much his heart must be hurting right now.
This has all been very quick – she was only properly diagnosed in June/July time – just before I came out here. I visited as soon as I could and was only able to make the journey to see them twice before I left. And I saw them how I’ve always seen them. My nan. Looking after my grandpop. I don’t think he had even processed what it meant by her being so, so poorly.
I cry because what on earth can anyone do or say that will make this better for him?
I’m over 3,000 miles away from him. The last time I saw them (I flew out the next day), he held me so tight and he whispered in my ear ‘It’s not okay. She thinks it’s okay’.
I cry because none of us are my nan.
We’re a big family; he will have plenty of family to rally around and be there for him, take care of him. But none of them will be my nan.
I am so incredible lucky. I got to say goodbye without saying goodbye. Our farewells were cloaked by me moving abroad. We were able to speak from the heart and give those bottomless hugs that are simply impossible to describe how they make you feel. Except that they really do make you feel.
My nan is the reason that I started this blog. She was an avid astrologist – she was really rather good at it. And she told me that I needed to do writing, because she saw that that was what I was going to do. So, no pressure destiny, but you’ll massively let my nan down unless you make me a rip-roaring success at this whole writing malarkey. And nobody lets my nan down.
I hope my family forgive me for writing this post, but I couldn’t very well not dedicate one to the lady that started this all.
Grandparents teach you so many things. Mine have set me a high benchmark – their house is always somewhere you can turn up at and feel at home. They’re always there for a hug, a cheer of congratulations, an ear, a shoulder. If I can be half the grandparent mine are, I will consider my grandkids the luckiest darned kids in the world.
So here’s me, raising a glass of Pernod (which my mum assures me nan drank – I can’t imagine why she would, but there you go) to the lady who showed me how to knit, who fostered my love affair with Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, and Carey Grant, who would show me her tap dance moves in the kitchen, who would make bread, butter and salt sandwiches, who would give us a Disney film for christmas every year, who included a lottery ticket in every birthday card, who had the most distinctive hand-writing I know, who taught us all about the herbs in her garden, who got me hooked on crime fiction, and who did so many more things that I could be typing this forever and ever.
From the bottom of my heart, I miss you.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you my nan.